Did you know carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common nerve disorders in the country? It impacts anywhere from 4-10 million Americans, especially women and middle- to older-aged individuals. Are you on track to developing this common problem?
Thomas F. Saylor, MD, diagnoses and treats hand and wrist problems like carpal tunnel at Orthopaedic Care Specialists in North Palm Beach, Florida. To protect yourself from this common condition, he recommends taking these steps to identify your risks to avoid future problems.
Understanding carpal tunnel syndrome
When people refer to carpal tunnel syndrome, they’re describing the symptoms that develop when the median nerve gets compressed or irritated at the point where it passes through the wrist.
This important nerve runs from your forearm into your hand through a narrow channel in the wrist known as the carpal tunnel. When constricted, it leads to tingling, numbness, or weakness in the fingers and hand.
Many factors can constrict or irritate the median nerve, but a combination of causes is often to blame, from health problems and wrist anatomy to repetitive hand motions. However, recognizing your risks may help you avoid problems, and seeking treatment may help you avoid permanent nerve and muscle damage.
Common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome
Most people associate carpal tunnel with repetitive tasks, such as using a computer. However, many factors can lead to constriction of the median nerve in the wrist, including:
- Wrist injuries, such as fractures and arthritis, that alter the carpal tunnel
- Chronic illnesses that cause nerve damage, such as diabetes
- Inflammatory conditions that affect tendons, such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Fluid retention, especially during pregnancy and menopause
- Certain medical conditions, such as obesity, thyroid disorders, menopause, and kidney failure
- Some medications
- Professions or hobbies that require repetitive wrist flexing or vibrating tools
Some studies also suggest that regularly using a computer mouse can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. However, more extensive research is needed in this area.
Reducing your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome
While you may be unable to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome altogether, there are ways to reduce stress on your hands and wrists.
To decrease your chances of getting carpal tunnel syndrome, Dr. Saylor recommends:
- Relaxing your grip and reducing your force when using your hands
- Taking short breaks often to stretch and bend your hands and wrists
- Using good ergonomics to keep your wrist in a neutral position
- Practicing good posture to keep your neck, shoulders, and back in proper alignment
- Getting a comfortable computer mouse that avoids wrist strain
You should also keep your hands warm, because pain and stiffness are more likely to manifest in cold environments.
What to do if you already have carpal tunnel symptoms
Don’t wait to seek treatment if you notice tingling, numbness, or weakness in your fingers or hands. In the early stages of this condition, nonsurgical therapies can often provide relief. These treatments include wrist splinting, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and corticosteroid injections.
When carpal tunnel symptoms become severe or don’t respond to conservative treatments, Dr. Saylor might suggest minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. These procedures require little recovery time and you can use your hand immediately.
In most cases, Dr. Saylor can also surgically repair damaged blood vessels and nerve tissues in the area to restore health and function to your wrist and hand. However, severe carpal tunnel can cause permanent nerve and muscle damage in the area.
Are you developing carpal tunnel syndrome? Don’t wait to find solutions. To learn more, call 561-292-0148 or book an appointment online with Orthopaedic Care Specialists today.